(1) Listen, O isles . . .--The argument against idolatry has been brought to its close, and a new section opens, and with it there is a new speaker, the mysterious "Servant of the Lord," (Isaiah 42:1), at once identified with Israel (Isaiah 49:3), in fulfilling its ideal, and yet distinguished from it, as its Restorer and Redeemer. "Isles" as before stand vaguely for "far off countries." The invitation is addressed to the heathen far and wide.
The Lord hath called me from the womb.--The words indicate a predestined vocation. (Comp. Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:15; Luke 1:41; Galatians 1:15.) Admitting the thought of a Divine order working in human history, the idea of such a vocation follows in inevitable sequence.
and hearken, ye people, from far; that were afar off from the land of Judea, as well as afar off from God and Christ, and the knowledge of him, and of righteousness and salvation by him; the Gentile nations are meant; see Ephesians 2:12, for this is to be understood of kingdoms afar off, as the Targum paraphrases it; and not of distant and future things, to be accomplished hereafter, as Aben Ezra; taking this to be the subject they are required to hearken to, and not as descriptive of persons that are to hearken:
the Lord hath called me from the womb; to the office of a Mediator; to be Prophet, Priest, and King; to be the Saviour and Redeemer of men; he did not assume this to himself, but was called of God his Father, Hebrews 5:4, and that not only from the womb of his mother Mary, or as soon as he was conceived and born of her; but from the womb of eternity, from the womb of eternal purposes and decrees; for he was set forth, or foreordained in the purposes of God, to be the propitiation for sin; and was predestinated to be the Redeemer before the foundation of the world, even before he had a being in this world as man. So the Targum,
"the Lord, before I was, appointed me;''
he prepared a body for him, and appointed him to be his salvation. The Syriac version join, the words "from far" to this clause, as do the Septuagint and Arabic versions, contrary to the accents, and renders them, "of a long time the Lord hath called me, from the womb"; even from eternity:
from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name; Jarchi interprets this of Isaiah, whose name was fixed and given him by the Lord, while he was in his mother's bowels, signifying that he should prophesy of salvation and comfort; but it is much better to understand it of Christ, whose name Jesus, a Saviour, was made mention of by the Lord, while he was in his mother's womb, and before he was born, Matthew 1:20, for the words may be rendered, "before the womb, and before the bowels of my mother" (r); that is, before he was in them.
(r) "ante uterum----ante viscera matris meae", h. e. "antequam essem in utero, et in visceribus matris meae", Vitringa.